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A Conversation with Ava

With the Impact Investing Challenge only a day away, teams have been working hard on their case presentations all week. This week, the RCIG team got the chance to have an interview with Ava-Dayna Sefa, who will be one of our judges at the IIC. Here's what she had to share on social impact investing and innovation.

RCIG: Hello Ava! We're glad to have the chance to chat with you again. Your career path is rather unique - many people who pursue work in business struggle to find work that has an impact on society. How have your contributions to social impact contributed to your employment experience?

Ava: Hi, I was looking forward to speaking with you. I've always had an eye to incorporate social impact in my job. It can be in different firms - for example, I worked in global policy and economic development. Having that kind of start in your career helps you to frame and live out your potential day to day - from volunteering in school to identifying opportunities for change.

RCIG: In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles and opportunities that impact investors will face in the next 5 years?

Ava: I believe that the main challenge is impact measurement. A lot of investment opportunities are out there, but there isn’t a consistent way to understand the impact of different investment opportunities. We also need to meet the expectations of the people involved in impact investing. There is a need to fine tune the practices and approaches for certain issues that we are facing as a society and how impact investing can provide solutions. We need to make sure the impact being reported is actually taking place, and that there is honesty and integrity in the business. As for opportunities, it's a great sign that we are seeing a lot of mainstream investors coming into the market. They are taking into account the needs and expectations of their clients, and they want to actually make change in the environment. It is nice to see people waking up everyday committed to helping the business and society!

RCIG: Part of RCIG's strategy is to adapt to changing problems and integrate diverse viewpoints. How does Toronto + Acumen utilize the organization’s diverse backgrounds to help tackle a complex project?

Ava: It starts with a diverse team and people coming from many backgrounds to tackle problems from different vantage points. Having people from different sectors like the government, business, and non-profit coming together to create well-rounded solutions is the goal. For Acumen, leveraging their global network is important to supporting global entrepreneurs and learning.

RCIG: Your organization offers several online courses related to social change. Why is education and learning on social change so important?

Ava: It's important because having different perspectives is critical. It's important to get a diverse group of people with well rounded views to be able to put forward viable options. Opportunities arise from innovative ways of thinking - there is the possibility to inspire change and to educate a broader array of people. Online courses offer great potential, because it is easy to access technology, and harder to access people directly.

RCIG: You mentioned online that you are curious about the intersection of the public and private sectors. How do you think cross sector collaboration could increase awareness and action in the impact investing industry?

Ava: Well, I think cross-sector collaborations are particularly important because you have social entrepreneurs on the one end and you have individuals with capital to deploy who are looking for investment opportunities to help the environment and gender equity progress, so the collaboration is important in that context. It also makes it clear that there’s a place for all sectors in impact investing, whether its identifying investment opportunities, or people trying to influence social change. Across the spectrum there’s always different opportunities to collaborate and influence positive change. Cross-sector collaboration is really important for impact investing, and getting people to understand where they fit in.

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